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05.31.2016

Early warning crop monitor: crop conditions at a glance

The fourth G-20 GEOGLAM Early Warning Crop Monitor bulletin was released on May 5th, highlighting the continued poor conditions and crop failures across large areas in southern Africa, due to the severe drought attributed to El Nino. The Early Warning Crop Monitor brings together the international, regional and national organizations monitoring crop conditions within countries at risk of food insecurity. The focus of this activity is on developing timely consensus assessments of crop conditions, recognizing that reaching a consensus will help to strengthen confidence in decision making. The Early Warning Crop Monitor grew out of a successful collaborative relationship, the AMIS Crop Monitor, which monitors the main crop producing and export countries and brings together over 35 international and national agencies to develop global assessments which reflect an international consensus. Several organizations are concerned with early warning of potential crop shortfalls in the countries vulnerable to food insecurity and monitor crop conditions as part of their food security monitoring activities. They operate at global, regional, national and sub-national scales, and often have to take critical decisions based on data and information that is less than complete, with high levels of uncertainty. Typically, these organizations combine direct observations, reports from the field, and indirect methods of satellite remote sensing and environmental modeling. Many of the so called  ‘Countries at Risk’ are monitored by more than one organization, each with its own combination of available data, tools, information and professional contacts. Given this situation, there was recognition by the early warning community that there was much to be gained by coming together on a monthly basis to discuss and cross-check crop condition assessments with one another, exchanging satellite information, models, ground data and expertise and reaching a science-driven consensus on crop conditions. Thus, the early warning community launched the Early Warning Crop Monitor in early 2016, in order to  provide of consensus, timely, policy relevant information for countries at risk of food insecurity. The activity is coordinated by Becker-Reshef at UMD/GEOGLAM Sec, working closely with the main agencies concerned with monitoring food security including USAID FEWS NET, World Food Programme (WFP), European Commission Joint Research Center (EC-JRC), Asia Rice, as well as with the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa.

Although only three monthly international bulletins have been published to date, this activity has gained high international visibility, and already been used to inform agricultural decisions. It has been cited in multiple news reports and its assessments were reported in a joint press release by FEWS NET, EC-JRC, WFP, and FAO amongst others, as well as disseminated within official FEWS NET and WFP reports, focused on the current crisis in southern Africa. This is the first time that the Early Warning community comes together on a monthly basis to develop such consensus-driven assessments. One of the main priorities for this activity is to expand and include regional networks and national agencies, who generally have more detailed information and can provide the national perspective on conditions as the season develops, which would help to inform international decisions, as well at the regional and national scales. As part of the STARS Agrisense Project in Tanzania, The national food security department of the Ministry in Tanzania has been developing the first instance of a national Crop Monitor, and are planning to be one of the first countries to participate in the Early Warning Crop Monitor Initiative.

Crop condition map synthesizing information for all Early Warning Crop Monitor crops as of April 28th. Crop conditions over the main growing areas are based on a combination of input including remotely sensed data, ground observations, field reports, national and regional experts. Regions that are in other than favourable conditions are displayed on the map along with a symbol representing the crops affected.